Oura Ring Takes Legal Action Against Ultrahuman Ring Over Alleged Copying
We discussed on this site a while back some legal action that Oura took against Circular over its ring product and how the latter might have infringed Oura’s intellectual property. Elsewhere on the net, commentators could be paraphrased to have said that Oura can’t patent “the ring” even if a court might find it differently.
The case against Ultrahuman is materially different and even in my non-legal eyes, appears to be a devasting indictment of Ultrahuman’s product and business practices. I’ll start with the basic legal premise which is that 5 infringements are made, namely:
- COPYRIGHT: Landscape Design
- COPYRIGHT: 3D Ring Image
- COPYRIGHT: Copyrighted User Interface Design
- PATENT: Ultrahuman is accused of infringing on U.S. Patent Nos. 10,893,833
- PATENT: Ultrahuman is accused of infringing on U.S. Patent Nos. 10,842,429
“Fine,” you might say. All the legal claims made by these tech companies are like that. However, I’ll show you the examples which, to my eyes, appear to be blatant copying. Let’s take them one at a time
COPYRIGHT: Landscape Design
Some of the wording on these two images is identical! OK, Ultrahuman has swapped the ocean for a desert but…even so! the similarities are obvious.
I’m unsure how much of that image comes from standard Instagram/iPhone features
COPYRIGHT: 3D Ring Image
So this claim is about the copying of a published image and not the product itself.
The image is very similar, I guess Ultrahuman could argue that many companies display the components of their products taken apart like this.
COPYRIGHT: Copyrighted User Interface Design
This claim is about wholesale copying of Oura’s (excellent) app. Clearly, parts of the following 5 images are very, very (very) similar. But then Ultrahuman might argue that its depiction of, for example, the sleep stages is similar to the depictions made by numerous other companies in the same industry. Was Oura the first to display it like this? A: I don’t know. However, I suspect that Oura’s line of argument will be that the entirety of the look and feel is copied in the images shown.
I would be sympathetic to such a view.
U.S. Patent Nos. 10,893,833
This brings us to Oura’s Patent “833” which is as follows
Upon closer reading you can see that Oura is not ‘copyrighting the ring’ but rather the method of construction of a smart ring. So the argument probably lies in that it’s more than simply having an inner and outer surface on a ring but rather that the design of the cavity and its construction/assembly is essential for a SMART ring. And, of course, Oura was the first smart ring (at least to my knowledge).
U.S. Patent Nos. 10,842,429
Finally, we have Oura’s Patent “429”
This patent seems to be about determining a readiness score and sleep periods from a) movement and b) HRV, followed by presenting an interpretation of readiness in software.
I’m less sure about the general merits of this claim, although would concede that Oura was the first to apply this all to a ring. That’s probably why Oura use the word METHOD to restrict its claim to rings.
If Oura is claiming to capture movement and HRV during sleep then companies that came before them did that. EMFIT immediately springs to mind.
If Oura is patenting a readiness score then, as I’ve said on this blog several times, there is no such thing as “readiness”, in a scientific sense and no accepted definition of it AFAIK.
Nightly HRV vs baseline HRV calculations are more about how the body is handling the pressures of life not about readiness per se. However, there is a broad agreement by many companies in the space about how to take the HRV averages and what baseline to compare them to – examples include the calculations by MarcoAltini’s in HRV4Training
Companies like Garmin have also provided insights about READINESS in its Morning Report. This report breaks down Garmin’s flavour of READINESS into what Garmin considers to be its constituent parts, of which HRV is one.
Oura also accuses Ultrahuman of,
hiring former Oura employees, soliciting current Oura engineers, and potentially benefiting from some of its primary investors gaining access to Oura’s proprietary and confidential information prior to launch of the Ultrahuman Ring.
Ultrahuman – Potential/Generic Defences
Ultrahuman broadly have 8 ways to defend each specific claim against them
- The invalidity of the Patents: For example, it could be proved that the patents were not novel even though they were granted
- Lack of Standing: ie Oura didn’t own the IP
- License or Permission: Ultrahuman somehow had permission
- Independent Development: The defendant may claim that they independently developed the technology in question without any knowledge of the plaintiff’s patents or copyrighted works.
- Prior Art: The technology in question was known or used by others before the filing date of the asserted patents.
- Fair Use (for Copyright):
- Unclean Hands or Misconduct: by the plaintiff during the patent filing process.
At first glance, Ultrahuman appears to have blatantly and possibly deliberately infringed Oura’s IP. However non-legal experts like you and I often fall into the “logic trap of understanding” in that we assume that what seems to be morally wrong is wrong and the law will logically agree with us.
The devil will almost certainly be in the details.
Potential smart ring manufacturers have the certainty that Oura will defend its IP rights 🙂
Source: Case: 2:23-cv-396 via The Next Web.
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